Though The New Republic is a magazine that generally leans left-of-center, its Editor-in-Chief, Martin Peretz, doesn’t always agree with the generally liberal New York Times. On September 4, Peretz wrote a blog post that questioned a Times editorial, which had expressed dismay at many Americans’ “sadly wary misunderstanding of Muslim-Americans.”
Peretz questioned that statement, asking what evidence the Times had to back up some of its claims. He wrote that “there has not been a single rally or demonstration in America aimed at Muslim or Arab interests or their commitments to foreign governments and, more likely, to foreign insurgencies and, yes, quite alien philosophies.” And in his post’s last paragraph, he revealed that he, too, apparently holds some anti-Islam prejudices:
But, frankly, Muslim life is cheap, most notably to Muslims. And among those Muslims led by the Imam Rauf there is hardly one who has raised a fuss about the routine and random bloodshed that defines their brotherhood. So, yes, I wonder whether I need honor these people and pretend that they are worthy of the privileges of the First Amendment which I have in my gut the sense that they will abuse.
Times columnist Nicholas Kristof used those closing statements as the jumping-off point for his latest opinion piece. He called Peretz’s words “venomous and debased”—but unfortunately unsurprising, considering the vitriol that’s regularly spewed at Muslims these days.
This morning, Peretz took to his blog again in order to issue a nominal apology for his hateful words:
Nicholas Kristof and I do not see the world—and America’s role in it—in the same way. I have sometimes expressed my disagreements with his opinions vociferously (vociferousness is my business). But in yesterday’s The New York Times, he quotes two sentences that I recently wrote—one of them genuinely embarrasses me, and I deeply regret it.
Peretz goes on to say that he wrote, but “do[es] not believe” what he said about Muslims not being worthy of being protected by the First Amendment. “I apologize for my sentence, not least because it misrepresents me,” he goes on.
Peretz also says that the other sentence in question—”But, frankly, Muslim life is cheap, most notably to Muslims”—is “a statement of fact, not value.” He quotes Kristof’s own blog to gain support for his statement.
“The idea that in remarking upon the cheapening of Muslim lives I was calling for the cheapening of Muslim lives, as some have suggested, is preposterous,” Peretz concludes.
It’s always nice to see a media figure take responsibility for making incendiary or ill-thought-out remarks. Still, Peretz’s “apology” inspires some decidedly mixed feelings. How can a sentence that he himself wrote “misrepresent” the editor? If Peretz doesn’t believe that Muslims are likely to abuse the rights granted by the First Amendment, why did he say that he did? The editor’s post sounds questionable at best and insincere at worst—why make noise about apologizing for something if you’re just going to deny that you did something wrong in the first place?
(H/T Jack Shafer)
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